• Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant (Photo : Getty Images Entertainment)

NBA great Kobe Bryant and soccer icon Cristiano Ronaldo are among the few worldwide sports celebrities who have taken advantage of the benefits of social networks in China to elevate their presence there.

Hashtags on Bryant's retirement announcement on Chinese social media, the #ThankYouKobe and #Kobe, generated 370 million impressions.

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Meanwhile, Ronaldo raised his profile in China and gained huge commercial deals, with his endorsement of mobile phone manufacturer Nubia believed to be around $400 million.

The Chinese in-territory social media is very hungry for content from sports stars, but only a handful of international sports personalities have embraced this potential.

China has blocked YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and instead created its own social networks.

China's micro-blogging website Sina Weibo experienced a 32 percent growth between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016, while Twitter only grew 2.6 percent.

Sina Weibo exceeded 300 million Monthly Active Users (MAU).

Meanwhile, China's instant messaging app WeChat, exceeded 800 million MAU in 2016, more than the entire population of Europe.

HaiQiu Sports, a sports technology company, is seeking to connect Western sports personalities with the Chinese public through social channels such as social-video platform Miaohi. It was co-founded by former Manchester City defender, Sun Jihai.

HaiQiu Sports was able to lure over 2,000 China-based footballers, athletes, Olympic champions, veteran sports media professionals and sports clubs. Fan associations also joined the platform during the first three months of trading. It simultaneously achieved 1 million users in the same period.

Miaohi is one of many startups leaning on behind-the-scenes moments of the lives of Chinese athletes as a recipe for success.

The platform's selling point is the over 300 athletes who use the app to share snapshots of their lives.

The strong appeal of athletes sharing their non-sporting moments became apparent when Rio Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui attracted more than 10 million viewers.